HR Trends 2017 according to Glassdoor : data, robots, and social changes

Glassdoor‘s Economic Researches department issued a report on the trends to watch in HR in 2017. They are 5 :

  • Data Science Will Transform HR into “People Science”: Data science has revolutionized nearly every industry – except HR and recruiting. In 2017, with easy and low-cost data analytics tools for employers, an industry that can benefit from data will finally start to catch up.


  • The Gig Economy Will Reach its Limits: The gig economy has been big news over the last year and many expect it to pick up in 2017. However, though many jobs are ripe for gig workers, the majority of the workforce of 2017 and beyond is moving to higher-skilled roles that require creative judgement and long-term relationship building.


  • Automation Will Impact All Jobs – Not Just Drivers: Jobs across all industries will begin to feel the effects of automation – especially truck drivers and taxi drivers in 2017. Automation is not going to destroy jobs, but will require workers to upskill and employers to focus on training programs to help employees develop new skills.


  • Employers Will Take Action Against the Gender Pay Gap: With the shift to pay transparency that unfolded in 2016, more employers will take action against the gender pay gap by doing analysis to understand the gap in their workforce and correct it.


  • Employers Will Shift Away from Flashy Benefits Packages: Employers offering employees flashy benefits like free lunch and dog friendly workplaces – led in large part by the tech industry – have reached a tipping point. In 2017, employers will pull back on flashy benefits because research shows more traditional benefits like 401(k) plans and health care coverage impact employee satisfaction most.


I think one should be cautious with these trends because they are about US compagnies which have a specific digital maturity comparend to France or some other countries, where the role of HR may be slightly different, and where some benefits that are mandatory in other countries are optional.

That said I see three main lines that underlie a global evolution that may be relevant in many countries even if the pace of change is not the same.

Data indigestion

Regarding advanced data processing, that’s to say using data to do more than reporting and have a predictive and even prescriptive approach, HR are lagging behind most other functions (like marketing) while the amount of available data about employees was, at the beginning, bigger than the data available about the client.

But they’re bridging the gap and that’s a trend highlighted by Josh Bersin in his 2016 report.

Glassdoor consider it will be useful for a better candidate selection, what can’t be discussed. That said, I think that businesses are really lagging regarding employee understanding, what is one more evidence that once a business has convinced a candidate to join, there is a real experience and attraction break.

I also see data as a relevant way to fight against discrimination since they will replace intuition and cognitive biases with facts. I even trust more data than transparency to reduce discrimination on salaries.

However data are here to help making better decisions. Having lots of data processing solution and not taking them into account to make decisions is an obvious risk. And the relevance of data-based decisions has one limits : the HR culture. If data say blue and culture says green, we all know what the decision will be.

Too much data can kill data, most of all if action does not follow and the tools begin to be seen as a fad.

Another point, more local. If technically speaking we can do anything with data, it’s not the case from a legal standpoint. If not everything is possible with customer data, even less is possible with employee data whichuse is more regulated by law and very sensitive even regardless to law. What is possible in the US may not be possible in Germany or France.

Now, the personalization of employee experience is a major HR challenge, in the same way the customer experience is key to marketing. And it’s impossible without data.

Robots : creation or destruction ?

From data to robots, there is only one step. Data are key to fuel robots, no matter it’s physical or software robots.

Glassdoor adopts the very positive discourse saying that robots will help humans, not replace them, and that there will be no job losses, only a shit to more interesting, skilled and creative jobs.

If I agree that the shift will happen for some people, I think that we should be too naive and refuse to tell bad news about a very lucrative business.

Yes, jobs will move but nothing says that the new job / lost job will be 1:1. And that’s not what economical buyers buy. And I’m not either sure that businesses will help their employees to upskill for this change. At least not all of them. Of course some have the talent and capabilities to move to the next level and their employer needs them. But stop dreaming : it will be about skilled people with a good potential. What about the others ? If they already showed limits in the past, which is the precisely the reason why their carreer is plateauing, I have very little hope they’ll demonstrate a potential they did not have 10, 20 or 30 years before.

The recent project started by Fukoku Mutual insurance in Japan is, in my opinion, closer to what the future will look like. And I have very little confidence that, when such projects will scale and become the new normal in every industry, most of the workforce will find automation that nice.

Society says “no” to the hype

Is the gig economy already dead ? Yes and no. Yes because – and Uber is the perfect example – its ultimate goal is the robot and people are only means to wait until full automation is possible. No, because contrary to what the study says, I don’t think this will be because workers will improve their skills. What was trendy one year ago will soon become a real problem as most people will understand that nearly no profession will be spared and that the new normal when hit everybody.

Then, the society may also refuse to accept some abuses and consider that what used to be seen as a way to emancipate or have complementary incomes has become a dead-end for those who believed in it.

The point about flashy benefits is closely related to the US  model and is less relevant in Europe and France. But it can also be seen as a revenge on the content vs the form in employee experiences. Flashy perks don’t work long. In the end what matters for employees is the content of work, not cuddle during the (few) breaks allowed by a tedious, uninteresting and poorly managed job. Long time engagement will de driven by the content of work, work organization and not window dressing initiatives around.

And you ? What do you think ?

Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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